As Rand Paul gears up for what now seems a certain bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, the Kentucky senator is putting distance on foreign policy issues between himself and his father, former Texas representative and past presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
In embracing a far more internationalist agenda than his father, the younger Paul is not unlike the young Rep. John F. Kennedy (D.-Massachusetts) voicing disagreements with his father as he prepared to seek higher office in the early 1950s.
JFK’s advocacy of a robust foreign policy clearly stood in sharp contrast to his father Joseph P. Kennedy, a former U.S. ambassador to Great Britain and unabashed isolationist before and after World War II.
"There are some differences in Rand Paul’s worldview from Ron’s and they are this is not dissimilar to John Kennedy distancing himself from the isolationist views of his father," Lew Moore, campaign manager for Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential bid, told Newsmax.
Rand Paul made clear his differences with his father on Oct. 23 of this year in a dinner address to the Center for The National Interest in New York. Declaring that "America cannot disengage from the world," he did sound his father’s traditional axioms that "America shouldn't fight wars that aren’t authorized by the American people, by Congress.
"America should and will fight wars when the consequences … intended and unintended … are worth the sacrifice."
In the same speech, however, Paul told his audience, "I support a strategy of air strikes against ISIS." He also said it was "a nuclear armed Iran would only further destabilize a region in turmoil."
Regarding Russian advances into Ukraine, Paul declared support for "the sanctions that the U.S. and the European Union put in place against Russia" and "the measures taken at the NATO Summit to increase the Alliance’s military preparedness, especially increased European defense spending."
Paul’s more internationalist stands have been cited in other articles and interviews.
In his September article in Time magazine, he wrote: "… airstrikes are the best way to suppress ISIS’s operational strength and allow allies such as the Kurds to regain a military advantage."
That same month, Paul voted along with every other member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014. The measure imposes broad sanctions on Russian defense, energy and financial sectors, and increases military and non-military aid for Ukraine.
These positions not only put Rand Paul at odds with much of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, but with his own father.
Long considered the "high priest of non-interventionists" — the term most libertarians prefer as a self-characterization to "isolationists"— Ron Paul drew some of his loudest applause as a Republican presidential candidate in '12 when he declare it was time to close U.S. bases abroad and "bring the troops home."
The elder Paul also called for scrapping the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, and for getting the U.S. out of such international organizations as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization.
While Sen. Paul has filed a suit against the NSA for eavesdropping and has been critical of tax dollars spent on global operations such as the IMF, he has not called for an exit from any of them.
Where Ron Paul has called for clemency for Edward Snowden (who has voiced admiration for the former congressman), Rand Paul has suggested a "mild" punishment for the NSA renegade as a means of possibly getting him to return to the U.S.
The differences between the Pauls are quite similar to those of John and Joseph Kennedy in the early 1950s. In December 1950, retired Ambassador Kennedy gave a speech urging U.S. withdrawal from Europe and concluded "our only real hope is to keep Russia, if she chooses to march, on the other side of the Atlantic. It may be that Europe for a decade or a generation or more will turn communistic."
"In contrast, Jack testified that losing the 'productive facilities' of Western Europe would make matters much more difficult for the United States in the Cold War and thought 'we should do our utmost within reason to save it,'" wrote JFK biographer Robert Dallek.
In noting the differences between Joseph and John Kennedy on foreign policy in the 1950s, historian Dallek also noted that they "were no bar to the great family enterprise of advancing Jack’s political career."
Presumably, Rand Paul’s differences from Ron Paul’s will not be a barrier to the elder Paul advancing his son’s career in 2016.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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